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Gary Anthony: Dealing with spivs, bombs, and cancer

Gary Anthony is managing director of Nottinghamshire-based Willowbank Contracts, and like many in the trade, he’s been in flooring for all of his working life. Here’s his story

Winding the clock back to his teenage years, before he left school, Gary worked Saturdays in a shop, Harry Fenton’s at the Victoria Centre in Nottingham, selling suits. As he recalls, ‘each suit had a spiv on (a coloured sticker – red, orange, blue and yellow) and we would get different amounts of commission for each colour’. Gary quickly worked out he could earn more by switching the spivs – ‘I put the expensive spivs on the cheaper suits so that I would earn more money… I was the best salesman on a Saturday, until I got caught’.

In a similar entrepreneurial vein, Gary says when he was 17, he’d go to the Friar Tuck, a pub in Nottingham, with friends. He explains he and his friends ‘would put 10 pence in each to play on the slot machines. In those days the machines were made of plastic, so we’d press them to stop the reels from spinning to win the jack pot of £25’. Naturally, they were caught, but Gary says the landlord took a shine to them for he bought them all drinks afterward.

Unable to pursue education further

Back to the world of flooring, Gary’s journey began in 1972, when he left school aged 15 because he felt he was unable to pursue further education. As he puts it, ‘I always came 32nd out 33 in my class – I wasn’t the smartest’.

He does however wish he’d stayed on at school. But with a poor level of achievement – academically at least – and with a mother who worked in the hosiery mills and a father who worked at John Player & Sons, ‘university wasn’t really an option for me’.

It’s relevant to this tack to say Gary worries that nowadays university is pushed too much at schools over apprenticeships. He adds that ‘from experience a lot of young people have a poor work ethic and expect things to be handed to them on a plate without them having to do any work. But not all young people are like that though; we’ve received good training opportunities from Essential Skills, but more training could be made available for young people’.


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